The Natural History Museum is huge, with galleries full of old-school stuffed animals, dinosaur galleries (bones and all), reconstruction of blue whales, as well as enormous displays of minerals, precious gems, and interactive earth sciences exhibits. There were so many galleries in fact that it made my head spin. But given our recent trip to Lyme Regis, and my acquaintance with the story of Mary Anning, it was the marine reptile gallery that I found the most memorable.
It’s quite a simple gallery really – a light and airy space, it has mounted on its walls complete fossils of marine dinosaurs. In fact, it houses the actual fossils that Mary Anning found in the cliffs of Lyme Regis, 200 years ago.
Here was the head of the first full ichthyosaur fossil that she found with her brother when she was just twelve years old.
And above it was another ichthyosaur that she found in Lyme Regis. The details are fascinating – the teeth, the ammonites embedded on to the ichthyosaur, showing that the two very different creatues did co-exist 200 million years ago.
I actually got a bit emotional seeing ‘her’ creatures in the most hallowed natural history museum in Britain, knowing how she struggled to make her mark. It goes to show that Mary Anning’s contribution, although not fully acknowledged in her lifetime, is now celebrated.